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Saturday, 11 December 2021 23:14

Loving is enough – ‘West Side Story’

It takes a special kind of chutzpah to revisit a masterpiece.

Even today, in a world where every other big-ticket film project is either part of a franchise or a remake of some preexisting IP, there are certain movies that you might consider to be beyond reproach. The idea of trying to recreate legitimate movie magic, to somehow improve upon Pantheon-level greatness … let’s just say that few would dare and far fewer would succeed.

And yet, here we are with “West Side Story.”

The 1961 original – based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name – was directed by Jerome Robbins (who helped originate the stage musical) and Robert Wise, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It would become one of the most acclaimed films in Hollywood history, winning 10 Oscars and becoming by all accounts the most successful movie musical of all time. So who would have the gall (and the balls) to remake such a consensus cinematic classic?

Steven Spielberg would. And I have to tell you – it’s really good.

Working from a screenplay adapted by the great Tony Kushner, Spielberg has somehow found a happy medium that I for one had doubts even existed. He has treated the original with the deep respect and adulation that such a masterful work warrants while also finding ways in which to place his own stamp on the proceedings. This is the filmmaker at his best, using every tool in his directorial belt to celebrate the brilliance of the original while also taking full advantage of the half-century of technological and aesthetic development since that first incredible film.

It doesn’t hurt that he is working with source material that is inarguably one of the greatest and most influential musicals ever, itself inspired by one of the greatest and most influential romances ever. This “West Side Story” is both subtle and spectacular, a film that takes full advantage of both the material and the medium to create that rarest of rarities – a new take on a classic that might well wind up considered a classic in its own right.

My guess is that most of the people reading this know “West Side Story” – or at least its inspiration “Romeo & Juliet” – so we won’t belabor the synopsizing.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 12:49

Game on! – ‘Ready Player One’

The potency of nostalgia is well-documented at this point. It seems as though much of the pop culture we consume these days is inspired by (or straight-up copied from) source material that we already know and love. Revisiting what we loved in the past has become a cottage industry across all entertainment platforms.

And so it’s no surprise that Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel “Ready Player One” would be adapted to the big screen. It’s a story ready-made for the wistful remembrances of the current cultural climate, packed with wave after wave of period-specific nerd references aimed at striking the winsome sweet spot of one particular generation. We do so love to love what we already love.

But when you hand the reigns over to a pop cultural icon like Steven Spielberg, well … that’s when you take things to a whole new level. A level, I might add, that is actually a bit higher than might have been expected for a film like this one. It’s precisely the sort of sci-fi-steeped young-person adventure story at which Spielberg excels. It’s throwbacks within throwbacks within throwbacks – a meta-nostalgic moviegoing experience that in many ways outshines the perfunctory nature of its inspiration.

Published in Movies
Saturday, 13 January 2018 12:54

‘The Post’ delivers

If you were to go into a filmmaking laboratory with the sole task of creating a prestige movie, you’d probably wind up with something very much like “The Post.”

Published in Movies
Thursday, 07 July 2016 09:43

Big and friendly indeed - 'The BFG'

Family film offers stunning visuals, sweet sentiment

We all have cultural touchstones that we love particularly those from our youth. Our fond memories of these works, be they books, films, television shows or what have you, are ingrained in us. So it's no surprise that the Hollywood machine would look to these past properties in an effort to cash in on their reinvigoration though the results can sometimes disappoint.

Published in Movies

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